The Vancouver Whitecaps will host Sporting Kansas City Wednesday evening at BC Place for their third to last match of the 2018 season. Sporting Kansas City will be without three of their top players in Johnny Russell, Krisztian Nemeth, and Felipe Gutierrez, but still have some formidable attackers in Rubio and Salloi.
With the Whitecaps playoff lives hanging in the balance, we spoke with Cody Bradley from SB Nation’s The Blue Testament about their club, Sporting Kansas City, and what to expect for the match.
1. SKC has always been known for being stout defensively, however, this season they seem to have figured out the offensive side, leading the Western Conference in goal differential, and third in goal for. What has changed?
Peter Vermes simply has so many more weapons at his disposal this year. Last year’s Offensive Player of the Year was Gerso Fernandes. He is a reserve player this year.
He brought in Yohan Croizet, Felipe Gutierrez, Khiry Shelton, Johnny Russell, and Krisztian Nemeth for reinforcements. Although none of those are the mythical DP #9 that has eluded this team the past couple seasons, they have all contributed in their own ways to a much more lethal attack. The game plan for SKC no longer relies on Dom Dwyer working all alone up top. This attack is creative, versatile, and they come in numbers (including the full-backs). You can’t focus your defense on one or two players because the goals could come from anywhere. It’s just night and day from last season... and it has been a lot of fun.
2. SKC have an important match on Sunday at Dallas. Is this seen as the more critical match this week? Is it important to the club and fans to finish first in the West, or does second suffice?
That is difficult to say. With the table the way it is currently, each of the last three games are incredibly important. But the other two games are against the only two teams ahead of KC in the West, so those are possible six-point swings that could see them take the top spot.
The big goal since MLS Cup 13’ has been to bring a playoff game to KC again. Technically third or fourth place accomplish that but I believe most of SKC nation wants that first round buy this year. First or second is theirs for the taking. Fans will be disappointed if they fail to get that buy because it will mean another season in which SKC limped into the playoffs. But the home playoff game has been the stated goal since this past off-season began. The club feels that spark of life in front of the fans is all they need for a run to the Cup again.
3. SKC will be without Russell, Gutierrez, and Nemeth. How will this impact the game plan for Wednesday?
Well Johnny will have you believe he is going to play in this match. In this badass story about him, he says he would be in Vancouver for practice today and ready for the match tomorrow. Dude is crazy. I expect to see him get his 60 minutes in before he’s burned out.
But it does look like Gutierrez, Nemeth, and Busio will be unavailable. We should see Croizet slot in for Gutierrez at Attacking Midfielder. But Nemeth seems to be the second choice at striker behind Diego Rubio, so that would leave Khiry Shelton ready to come off the bench.
Bonus Question: Alphonso Davies has received a lot of attention this season from the media and opposing squads. Are SKC fans aware of him, or do Vancouver fans have a bit of a skewed viewpoint of how well-known he is by opposing fans?
The announcement of his MLS record-breaking news is something most all fans of the league heard about. Most fans in KC will have probably heard the name. And if Sporting KC fans are not aware of him, they should figure it out quickly! He will be a key figure in Wednesday’s match. That being said, there is definitely a huge portion of SKC fans that do not know anything about him.
(4-3-3) Melia, Sinovic, Besler, Opara, Zusi, Ilie, Espinoza, Croizet, Russell, Rubio, Salloi
Final Score Prediction
Sporting Kansas City 2 - 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
The last time these two clubs faced each other, Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez were sent off in the 40th minute. To be fair though, the match was already over with the score already 3-0. Wednesday’s match should be different as Reyna is away on international duty and Juarez has not seen a sniff of the field in more than a month.
The big question facing the Whitecaps will be how they lineup. Since Craig Dalrymple has taken over, Techera and Felipe have barely seen the field; although Felipe was on the outs at the end of Carl Robinson’s tenure too. The Caps recent defensive midfield duo of Russell Teibert and Aly Ghazal will be absent as both are away on international duty. Joining them will be other starters Doneil Henry and Alphonso Davies. It was expected that Kei Kamara would be absent, but the FIFA announcement that Sierra Leone is banned from international soccer means that Kamara will be available for selection.
Jordon Mutch has been absent for much of the season (ha!), but when he has played he has provided so much more (ha, again!). All joking aside, if he is healthy, I am excited to see what Mutch can do.
Despite being relegated to the bench or to a practice field at UBC, expect Felipe and Juarez to be back in the picture. In the case of the latter, Juarez could play simply because the Whitecaps have few other options. It will be interesting to see how Felipe and Juarez fair having not seen competitive football for a while, and seeming to be on the way out.
The backline is a bit of a mess right now. Both de Jong and Levis are available for selection, with both having pros and cons to their playing. Of late, it seems Levis’ pros have outweighed de Jong’s, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the start. In central defense, the Caps are without both of their usual starters, while their ‘backup’, emergency, starter Ghazal is also away. Expect Aja to start, with who knows beside him. It is possible that Maund is back, although he is listed as questionable. We are unlikely to see the debut of Roberto Dominguez, although it is possible, as he played a full 90 for El Salvador, in San Salvador, over the weekend. If the duo of Maund and Aja are unable to go, we might see de Jong slide into central defense (YIKES!), with Levis playing on the left.
More up the pitch, Shea appears to have the blessing of Dalrymple, despite not offering much of late, while Techera should get another opportunity on the right-hand side. Kamara and Mezquida are the most likely to feature up-top, although it might be nice to see Blondell at some point. Where has he gotten to?
Don’t forget to get your Starting XI and Final Score predictions in for this one in our year-long contest.
What are your expectations for the lineup? Who gets in and who sits out?